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American Crown Circus Comes to Town

For the past few years, Novato Sunrise Rotary has brought the American Crown Circus/Circo Osorio to St. Vincent's in Marinwood for a series of performances over Memorial Day Weekend. This year we made it a point to go, since we always seem to have missed it in years past. So, not sure exactly what to expect, we rolled up to the big top on Friday night.

Standing in a freshly mowed hay field, the blue-and-yellow striped big top is actually quite a sight to behold. If you have advance tickets you can walk right in, otherwise pay at the ticket window in the circus truck parked near the tent. Inside the tent is a single circus ring surrounded by grandstands and a small concession stand selling popcorn, cotton candy, hot dogs, sodas, and other treats. We took our seats and waited for the show to begin.

This circus is a small one, and seems to be largely a family affair. Acts include many of the traditional circus offerings, including juggling, acrobatics, clowns, magic, and of course amazing feats on the trapeze. Costumes were appropriately glitzy and glittery—check out the ringmaster's series of improbably sparkly tailcoats.

American Crown Circus at St. Vincent'sAmerican Crown Circus at St. Vincent's

Animals at American Crown Circus are limited to a trained miniature horse and a bunny that gets lifted out of a box during the magic show. This may either disappoint you or make you happy depending on which side of the fence you sit on regarding the ethics of keeping and training circus animals.

Acts were brief and often dazzling, and kept kids in rapt attention as the show went on. A 15-minute intermission provided a chance for pony rides and a stretching your legs, as well as a bathroom break. While you're watching from the stands, the circus takes the opportunity to try to sell you popcorn, cotton candy, snow-cones, light-up toys, and balloons. While the hawking is not really aggressive, it's definitely keyed in to children's behavior and it's bound to unleash a chorus of "Can I get that?!" from your kids.

American Crown Circus at St. Vincent'sAmerican Crown Circus at St. Vincent's

It's definitely not Barnum and Bailey, but it's a lot of fun in a low-key, old fashioned sort of way. The multitasking cast of performers is small, and they often pull double or triple duty as stagehands and hawkers, too. I think we actually would have been disappointed if it was really slick and professional! All in all, it's a solid 90 minutes of fun that kept everyone entertained the entire time. We really enjoyed the show and look forward to coming back next Memorial Day Weekend.

We really enjoyed the acrobatic exertions of Oleg on his tottering tower of chairs—he stacked them one atop the other and did handstands and other moves at the top, the "Gauchos of Fire" who—predictably—juggled, twirled, and tossed flaming objects, and the unexpectedly well done magic show performed by none other than the ringmaster (dressed this time in an outfit that made him look kind of like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix).

American Crown Circus at St. Vincent'sAmerican Crown Circus at St. Vincent's

If You Go

American Crown Circus/Circo Osorio performs at St. Vincent's through Monday, May 28, 2012. Show times are at 2, 4:30, and 7 pm on Saturday and Sunday and 2 and 4:30 pm on Monday.

Advance tickets, available at Matt and Jeff's Car Wash in Novato, are $14 for adults; you'll pay $16 to get in at the door. Credit cards are accepted for admission, but bring some cash to pay for all the snacks and souvenirs that your kids will try to talk you into buying.

One of the big draws is that children are supposed to be admitted free with paid adult admission. Unfortunately, none of the promotional material out there specifies that you have to have a coupon to get free admission for your kids. Otherwise, they're $5 each. We actually had the coupons, but neglected to bring them based on what we read. It was a little confusing and disappointing, but ultimately we didn't mind paying since it is a community fundraiser put on by Rotary, after all. We just wish that communications were a little clearer.

St. Vincent's is located on St. Vincent Drive off Highway 101 in Marinwood just south of Novato. To get there, take 101 to the Marinwood/St. Vincent Drive exit, and then head east a short distance on St. Vincent Drive and look for the Rotarians with clown noses guiding you into the parking area. Parking costs $4 per car.

For more information, visit or call (415) 883-0800.

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